Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lady On A Blue Chair

I would make a lousy goth.  However, I still have an appreciation for this look, but really only on women.  Men just can't seem to pull off the eye-liner and other aspects without looking... well, weird.  At least on the female species the goth look has an enduring appeal to me, probably because you can really bend the images into the realm of the surreal and they still work.

So, today we are going to do exactly that.  We are going to take an image of a lovely Gothic model I have known for quite a while now named Jen.  We have a great location in a building with several wrecked rooms and lots of texture.

Posing Our Gothic Model
Poses with models can be fun and yet frustrating.  A solid knowledge of anatomy is a great plus here, and can really help you position the body so the most flattering things fall into place.  We want a sexy pose, but not one that is over the top.

I am a big fan of "un-lady-like" poses on my models, but they must be positioned in a way as to not really make the position super revealing.  We want sexy, not an anatomy lesson.  Use of shadow as well as props and "cookies" are your tools to turn a photo from nearly pornographic to highly suggestive.  The term "cookie" is short for cookaloris, and it is basically something that you put between the light and the model to add some variation or mottling to the light falling on the subject.  Those fake Ficus trees make great cookies :-)  In our example today Jen is sitting in a very sexy way, backwards on this chair.  We want to be sure we have some shadow fall between her thighs to really frustrate your typical male viewer.  The other aspect of this pose is making sure we pop the muscle in the upper inner thigh (Abductor Longus), otherwise the flat of the leg will rest on the chair seat like a balloon full of water (not good).  There easy way to do this is to have the model lift her leg slightly as well as push forwards on the knee.  To compound this, we want a nice calf, so she will have to push her toe into the floor.  They say if a pose is difficult it will look spectacular on film.  In this case I am very pleased with the left leg and the effort that was put into it.

Creative Portrait Lighting
We have a lot of texture in the room in which we are shooting.  I found this chair in another room and after some considerable dusting of the seat it was acceptable to her buns.  I want to light this pose in a dramatic way, so we will not be using anything to soften the light.  I choose to use one of my AlienBee AB800s with a 15 degree grid, mounted on a boom.  We are using the grid to control the spill to the rest of the room and confine the areas exposed to the local region of the floor and the wall behind her.  The light is almost directly over her head, and that will give us the shadows we need to keep the picture sexy but not overly revealing.  I metered this at ƒ5.6 at the models face and triggered it with my CST radio transmitter.

Post Production
Alrighty, now for the part where using a gothic model pays off.  We can mess with this image in the harshest of ways and the model will probably love it (turned out to be true in this case anyway).

I loved the textures of this room, so we want to really compound them into the realm of the surreal.  Most of the retouching for this image will be in camera RAW, and then into photoshop for some masking and any other little goodies that remain.  As to not wreck your chance to expirament I will not be giving you my exact camera RAW settings for this image, but I will give you some hints so you can discover your own look.  First load the image into Photoshop as a smart object, and use "Create New Layer via Smart Object Copy".  You must use this otherwise your other smart object layers will follow suit.  We will then double click on the smart object icon on the layers palette on the upper layer.
  • Clairity:  PUSH it to the right.  Don't look back, take it to 100%
  • Fill Light: Push it all the way to 100%
  • Recovery: Flattens the light, but also adds some bizarre effects
  • Vibrance: Amplifies the effects of Saturation
  • Saturation: What if this isn't normal?  what would vibrance do then?  Hmm? Play with the combination.
  • Curve: Always add a slight curve to digital images, they are always a bit flat for me.
Ok, so once I have my settings making the background all awesome and gritty, the model looks like crap.  So, we need to take and mask this newly gritty layer to exclude the model.  Now, there are places on her where the effect might be nice, so paint the model out, don't paint the background in (depends on if you start with a 100% masked layer or a 0% masked layer).

The rest of the work is basically retouching anything on the model.  I did add a bit of the above gritty layer to show through on her necklace as well as the top of her thigh (both at a lower opacity on the mask).